EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- As a new memorial has sprung up at site of a deadly crash in west Eugene, many are wondering whether or not emergency responders could have been notified before the crash occurred, raising questions about the communication systems between different agencies.
The crash happened around 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 7th, 2012, at the intersection of West 11th Avenue and Bertelsen Road in Eugene when the 16-year old driver ran a red-light during a chase with an Oregon State Police trooper.
Eugene Police say the sedan, driven by 16-year old Emmanuel Herrara-Gutierrez, hit a pickup truck in the middle of the intersection, killing 62-year old Richard Lee Taylor and a 43-year old woman who's identity has not been released as of Thursday night, March 8th, 2012.
Herrara-Gutierrez is now facing two counts of manslaughter and two counts of third degree assault.
(Read NewsSource 16's original report about the crash at the following link: http://www.kmtr.com/news/local/story/2-dead-16-year-old-charged-in-W-11th-Bertelsen/sWzXpAaHrkybBFhUPdB-hw.cspx.)
Before the pursuit began, an Oregon State Police Trooper pulled Herrara-Gutierrez's vehicle over after clocking it at 100 miles per-an-hour. When the trooper approached the driver's side of Herrara-Gutierrez's vehicle, the car sped off.
Eugene Police estimate it was only 43 seconds between the time that the trooper first stopped Herrara-Gutierrez and the subsequent crash.
In that short of time, OSP says it was not able to notify Eugene Police or other agencies about the pursuit until it was over.
Many are wondering how the communication didn't reach other officers in time.
There are two things to talk about in this case. First, there's the idea of police radio “interoperability,” or shared communication. Second, there's how fast the pursuit and crash happened.
Starting with interoperability, Oregon State Police and local agencies communicate on different radio bands.
In Lane County and many other Oregon counties, if Oregon State Police has a chase it is dealing with, troopers radio their own dispatch center. Via phone, state patrol dispatchers then call county dispatchers, who alert officers and sheriff's deputies from there.
As it stands now, Oregon State Police troopers cannot communicate radio to radio with local police agencies because of a difference in technology. OSP and EPD say that's the way things have been for decades.
“It's not at ominous as it may sound,” says Capt. Rich Stronach of the Eugene Police Department.
The different police agencies have had different radio frequency bands because of their individual needs. For instances, Oregon State Police troopers are serving more rural areas than municipal agencies and have had a need for a wider-spray radio band to be used.
Meanwhile, due to changes in FCC laws, state, county, and municipal agencies are in the midst of changing from a "wideband" to a new “narrowband” radio system. The FCC is hoping to get public safety agencies on narrowband frequencies by January 2013.
With the switch, the idea is that soon enough, all agencies will be on similar radio technology and have the chance of “interoperability.”
However, with Wednesday morning's crash, OSP troopers and EPD officers say because things happened so fast, even with a singular radio system, there likely wouldn't have been anything different that police officers could have done.
“The potential to be able to get that information out in that short of time to those units, in the best of situations, if they had radios that could communicate, were slim to none, I mean it just happened so fast,” says Captain Rich Stronach of the Eugene Police Department.
Since 2005, Oregon has been working towards a statewide “narrowband” radio system for all state agencies including ODOT, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Forestry and Oregon State Police.
Tom Lauer is the chief of ODOT's major projects branch, which is heading up the radio switch.
Lauer says likely in late 2013, Oregon State Police Troopers may start being able to speak radio to radio with other local law enforcement agencies, including in Lane County. Lauer says the biggest hold up is funding.
According to Lauer, before the interoperability system is given the green light though, police agencies from across the state will conduct meetings to figure out shared radio protocol, as every agency has its own intricacies. Those meetings have already begun.
(For more on the state's Interoperability Executive Council, click the following link: http://www.oregon.gov/SIEC/index.shtml.)
Working around the technology though, for several years, Eugene Police has provided its own police radios to Oregon State Police as part of their partnership. It is a separate radio though, and not ideal when it comes to being able to notify others quickly.
To learn more about Oregon's “State Radio Project,” click the following link: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/StateRadioProject/index.shtml.